Amphibious ambitions?

When the FAA stalled on the idea of granting Special-Light Sport Aircraft certification to the amphibious Czech Aircraft Works Mermaid, the company asked its customers to sign a petition to press an exemption to the new rule. The company wanted the FAA to understand that many people want the aircraft certified as an S-LSA.

“The response was overwhelming,” says Czech Aircraft Works President Chip Erwin. “I believe the petition had 241 positive responses and only one negative, without any substantiation. This strong response should push the FAA to the clear and final resolution of allowing retractable gear on LSA amphibious aircraft without any restriction besides meeting ASTM design standards and a pilot training endorsement. The petition did prove an important point: That LSA customers strongly and overwhelmingly want amphibious LSA aircraft.”

The Mermaid is a two-place LSA with a gross weight of 1,432 pounds. It was specifically designed for the American LSA market.

But the LSA rule, as written, does not allow amphibious landing gear because it can be repositioned in flight. In 2004 officials from the Seaplane Pilots Association issued warnings to potential buyers and manufacturers that FAA verbal claims of the acceptability of amphibious landing gear were not backed by the written rules. According to SPA officials, FAA officials said the rule’s language was a mistake and would be corrected. To date, no change has been made to allow amphibious landing gear, SPA officials note on the association’s website (Seaplanes.org). “If approved, the petition will clear the way for further exemptions and/or accelerate revision of the Light Sport rules,” SPA officials note.

Van Stumpner, aviation safety inspector with the FAA’s Light Sport branch, confirmed that the manufacturers of the Mermaid had applied for an exemption that would allow the Mermaid to be certified as an LSA, but as of Feb. 7, the FAA had not made a decision.

According to Stumpner, S-LSA certification for the Mermaid was initially denied because all the sales brochures for the new plane indicate it is a retractable gear aircraft.

“Retractable gear means it can be moved in flight,” he explained. “Repositionable gear remains fixed in its position through takeoff and landing.”

According to the LSA rule, aircraft intended for water operations may have repositionable gear, as it does not add mechanical or operational complexity to the aircraft.

Stumpner added that since the rule is so new it is likely the regulations regarding landing gear will be refined in the future.

As this issue was going to press, Czech Aircraft Works officials were in the process of scheduling an appointment with a Designated Airworthiness Representative for a certification inspection of the Mermaid within a few weeks.

Czech Aircraft Works’ Erwin and Danny Deflici, president of Sport Aircraft Works LLC, a Palm City, Fla.-based company that is a major importer and distributor of Czech Aircraft Works aircraft in the United States, met with several FAA representatives in January during the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., to discuss certification of the Mermaid.

“They agreed the Mermaid meets the S-LSA criteria and should be certified,” Deflici said.

Because the aircraft is imported, each plane needs to be inspected for certification.

“But after you get the paperwork through for the first one, the process gets smoother,” Deflici explained.

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